I am often asked if there is a time when it is too late to design our ideal life. I don’t think so. We all go through many different phases in our lives that is true. We complete college or vocational school; we enter a career; we change careers; we retire and discover we don’t want to retire and on and on. Can a 90 year old plan? Well, why not? Who is to say? We all have the potential to lead a vital life.

Do you know what is tragic? The person who has no sense of plan and no sense of purpose. These people are perfectly content to come home after working at a job they hate, sit in front of a television set, and complain year-after-year until they retire. They have no interests, they have no hobbies and they have no direction.

Yes, I do know people who have planned a whole new career after retirement; people in their mid-60s who went on to become chefs, bakers, writers, veterinary technicians, crafts people and the like, but what they do is not as important as the fact that they do it.

Study after study shows that all factors being equal, those with no plan after retirement do not live as long as those who look for new challenges, new interests, and new hobbies.

We have all heard of retired police officers and firefighters who have just given up after retirement and die tragically. This can also happen to sales and marketing people, teachers and those in other white-collar jobs. Indeed, I have known workaholics who, after a career of having no time for family, friends or interests, wander through retirement as though they have run into a brick wall.

Please note that I am not suggesting we must all aim at becoming gourmet French chefs or HVAC technicians after we retire (!) but whether we want to volunteer five days a week at a local hospital or take master gardening classes, we must try to live every day with intention. Having a purpose is critical to our wellbeing.

Designing with intention

Designing your ideal life means designing with intention. We need to consciously idealize a line of pursuit, and develop a plan to address many things we have long neglected in our lives, or always wished we had the ability to pursue while in our earlier careers.

To follow this road requires us to actively plan for our next life.

Another important point is that this planning can occur anywhere along the timeline of our careers. I don’t want to give you the idea that self-assessment can only occur upon retirement. It can happen when we are 25, 40, 65 or older. For myself, I did not always know I wanted to teach. I found that out only after learning how much I loved teaching workshops as a business coach. Now I am completing a Ph.D so I can teach for my “retirement” career. This points to the importance of trying new things to expand awareness of your talents and interests. Only by trying something new would I have ever learned about my newly discovered passion.

Ultimately, if we are to plan and to change, we must accept ourselves and accept ourselves where we are. We can start on a new path at almost any time.

I don’t know what profound effects a person planning a whole new career might be able to accomplish at age 80, but I do know this: he or she will accomplish infinitely more than the person who sits in front of a television set whining about the world and never planning at all. Ultimately it is a choice…keeping living or stop.

What do you think?

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